COVID Dashboard: COVID still surging, but flu proving to be a formidable rival

People walking in downtown Santa Cruz
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
An graphic image for the Lookout COVID Dashboard

News of the week

Santa Cruz County public health officials did not release an update Monday, though they did provide new data last Thursday. In that update, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency recorded 1,152 active COVID-19 cases; that’s 38 more than the previous Monday. No new deaths were reported locally, keeping the county’s pandemic death toll at 276.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Santa Cruz County and nearly all of its neighboring counties — San Benito, Santa Clara and San Mateo — are in the “high” tier of community transmission as of Monday. Monterey County is the only exception, remaining in the “substantial” tier. “Substantial” transmission is 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 people, and “high” transmission is 100 or more cases per 100,000 people.

While COVID stays ever-present for a third winter season, the local flu positivity rate has stayed high throughout the tail end of 2022. Watsonville Community Hospital’s positivity rate reached a staggering 32% at the end of November. Looking north in the Bay Area shows striking similarities — Marin County is seeing about one in three people who are experiencing respiratory symptoms testing positive for the flu.

Marin County Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said that there is an equal number of people in the hospital between flu and COVID. It’s the first time that has happened since COVID hit, Willis said. Given that the number of hospitalized COVID patients in the Bay Area is nearing that of the Delta variant peak in August 2021, the flu’s impact is certainly far-reaching.

That said, vaccines and medications like Paxlovid have kept severe illness mostly in check. Even so, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci said local booster uptake remains low.

“That’s a big thing that’s making us more vulnerable,” he said. “I’ve talked about how helpful it is to wear a mask, but nothing beats being vaccinated and boosted.”

Further, Ghilarducci said that early indicators showed that the distributed flu shot is a good match for the predominant strain this season. Those have held true.

“From what we can tell, it hit the mark this year,” he said. “But even if it was a little bit off, it’s still helpful to have just some protection.”

The updated, Omicron-targeting booster shot is now widely available at local drugstores and health care providers.

Walgreens is booked out about one week in advance at the Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz locations, but has openings at its Freedom location as soon as Tuesday. Safeway and CVS county locations now have immediate availability for people ages 5 and older who have received a primary series.

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Santa Cruz County’s three test-to-treat locations are still up and running. Click here to find the closest location.

Currently, Paxlovid is the available medication, showing an 89% reduction in hospitalization and death, and it must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms to be effective.

Vaccinations and precautions are still strongly recommended.

The easiest way to schedule an appointment for second boosters is at local pharmacies including Rite-Aid, CVS and Walgreens.

Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health are still administering second boosters to eligible recipients.

Check our links below for quick access to the relevant websites.

Masking rules

Neither the state of California nor Santa Cruz County currently requires indoor masking. For county public schools, as of March 11, masks are optional though highly recommended.

As of April 10, masks are not required for most indoor settings at UC Santa Cruz facilities, though highly recommended. Masks will still be required for on-campus public transportation, in the Early Education Services centers, and in clinical settings.

On April 19, Santa Cruz Metro lifted its mask mandate for vaccinated passengers, following a federal judge’s ruling that mask mandates are not required on public transportation.

The latest numbers

How does Santa Cruz compare to California and the U.S. in vaccinations? Where are the most current COVID cases in the county, and how does that compare to population? Here is the most recent data.

As of last Thursday, there were 1,152 known active cases logged by Santa Cruz County’s Health Services Agency. This does not include unreported rapid tests taken at home, so this number is not exact.

No new deaths were reported, leaving the Santa Cruz County pandemic death toll at 276.

Wastewater COVID tracking data as of Dec. 6.
(Via California Department of Public Health)

Where can I find a vaccine?

At this point, vaccines are widely available across the county. They are free for everyone, whether insured or not.

As of March 31, second booster shots are available to people aged 50 and older as well as people 12 and older who are immunocompromised or who have received Johnson & Johnson as their primary series and booster doses.

Rite-Aid, CVS, Horsnyder Pharmacy, Westside Pharmacy and Walgreens are currently offering second boosters.

Those wanting to get the shot through their primary care provider should check the company’s website, as availability may vary.

Health care providers

You can schedule appointments for initial doses and booster shots. Below are the local health care providers that offer the vaccine.

Kaiser Permanente
Sutter/Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Dignity Health
Emeline Health Center

Drugstores and supermarkets

Most pharmacies in the county have COVID-19 vaccines appointments available well into the future. Click the pharmacy of your choice to schedule an appointment.

Horsnyder Pharmacy & Medical Supply
Westside Pharmacy

Getting tested

The sites below offer free PCR tests via Turnaround is typically 24 to 48 hours. Each location also has rapid COVID/flu tests and the COVID antiviral, Paxlovid.

County building/Santa Cruz Superior Court
701 Ocean St., Santa Cruz
Watsonville Veterans Building
1301 Main St., Watsonville
Felton Library
6121 Gushee St., Felton

The table below lists additional testing resources in Santa Cruz County. However, almost all require appointments.


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